Posted 05 September 2011, by Marvynn. Benaning, Manilla Bulletin, mb.com.ph
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) will have to establish water harvesting facilities in rainfed areas if it wants to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by 2013.
This conclusion has been reached by experts from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), which is at the forefront of the campaign to optimize rice production in rainfed farms and intensify the production of cereals other than rice in the uplands.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala is sanguine about the prospects of meeting his 2013 deadline to produce enough rice to feed the country’s population, which would have breached 105 million by then.
Rice experts who met in Tagaytay City earlier this year said it is possible to produce an excess of 100,000 metric tons (MT) of rice by 2013 if more farmers shift to certified seeds (CS) and if enough irrigation water flows into more areas heretofore not served by facilities of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and communal irrigation systems operated by Irrigators’ Associations (IAs.)
BAR said in its latest publication on rainfed agriculture that only one million out of the 11 million hectares of prime agricultural lands are served by irrigation systems on a regular basis.
“Easily, 10 million hectares are dependent on direct precipitation to grow crops and livestock,” the bureau stressed.
Experts should not look far to see the advantage of water impounding systems since the Banaue Rice Terraces offers prehistoric evidence that early rice growers knew that terracing would capture precipitation that is needed to irrigate upland rice fields.
Moreover, farmers in the Ilocos Region had long been building water impounding facilities with a little help from tobacco companies that see virtue in helping growers produce rice for their own needs.
Noting that 40 percent of the entire food output in the country comes from rainfed areas, BAR said “while rainfed farming is a high-risk enterprise, the potential for meeting the country’s food security need is high if we will be able to enhance productivity.”
BAR said the fact that rainfed areas are characterized by low productivity and the low use of agricultural inputs, with limited water in the dry months and too much precipitation in the stormy months also having a big impact on yield, should prompt government and farmers themselves to work on creating water impounding systems that could provide water when it is most needed.
“This would require a biophysical redesigning of the landscape of the agro-ecosystem with the aim of harvesting water,” BAR noted.
The bureau suggested the cultivation of agro-forestry trees in strategic zones for flood control and preservation of soil erosion, terracing and, of course, water impoundment systems.
BAR also stressed the need for expanding the watershed zones.
Further, the bureau urged farmers to check on the adaptability of crops and livestock to their environment, arguing that “a long-term objective in the choice of crops must not only be for economic returns but also towards regaining the fertility of the soil and identifying the crops that can be used to assure better water control.”